It takes an important commitment to community and others to put service before self. Recently, AmeriCorps CEO Barbara Stewart and Retired U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Earl Gay, the AmeriCorps advisor for veterans and veteran-service organizations, had the honor of meeting a special cadre of AmeriCorps members who chose to do so twice. 

The virtual roundtable brought Barbara Stewart, Admiral Gay, and Serve Illinois Executive Director Ayoka Samuels together with AmeriCorps members serving with Leave No Veteran Behind. Leave No Veteran Behind has up to eight AmeriCorps members serving in Chicago’s South Side neighborhoods. The nonprofit organization invests in veterans to build better communities through employment training, transitional jobs, and their veteran educational debt relief scholarship. This AmeriCorps program provides a transitional role for veterans working to reenter civilian live, but still wishing to serve their community and country.

National service can be a chance for veterans to become part of a new community, utilize their leadership skills, gain additional experience, and discover new opportunities. When Barbara Stewart asked how AmeriCorps had helped them adjust to civilian life, every member expressed how helpful it was to, first, transition from military service to national service. 

Former Marine Nestor Zavala said; “My AmeriCorps service has always been about transition – about getting trained and equipped for my next steps after my military service.” The support system, training, and security brought by their AmeriCorps experience has been key to each veteran’s current success. 

Though the AmeriCorps members at Leave No Veteran Behind signed up for a specific program, almost all had their service thrown into uncertainty as a result of COVID-19. 

The program originally planned for members to conduct outreach and education about personal safety plans to young people and adults alike. As the needs of their local communities changed, these members adapted and overcame. In addition to advancing their original mission, the AmeriCorps members now also help with a food bank, serve at a community garden, and perform other services to keep their community safe and healthy. 

Each year, AmeriCorps and AmeriCorps Seniors engage the talents of roughly 20,000 veterans in service and assist more than 450,000 veterans and military families. 

John Quincy Adams once said,  “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” The AmeriCorps members who chose to serve their community - after serving their country - are among a special group of individuals for whom leadership is second nature.


To learn more about how AmeriCorps works with veterans and military families, click here.